Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has demanded that the Government fulfil its promise and pursue insurance companies that have pocketed taxpayers’ money that was paid to support businesses and their employees during the pandemic.
Speaking this morning, the Donegal TD criticised the Minister for Finance for once again allowing taxpayers’ money to flow upwards towards shareholders and big industry, with insurers deducting State supports from COVID-19 payouts to their customers.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Once again this Government has failed to protect taxpayers’ money and instead taken the side of big business.
“Last year the Minister for State Seán Fleming warned that insurance companies who deducted state supports paid to businesses from valid claims under their insurance policies would not ‘be let off the hook’.
“The Minister has now rowed back on this promise – effectively letting the insurance industry off the hook.
“This means that the taxpayer will have subsidised an insurance industry that has thrived during the pandemic, and its shareholders.
“This is completely unacceptable.
“In March 2020 I wrote to the Government requesting that strict conditions be put on all financial support provided to businesses, so that taxpayers’ money did not find its way to shareholders and those who didn’t need it.
“The Minister has said that he cannot recover public money that has been unfairly clawed by insurers in this way on the grounds that it would be ‘retrospective’.
“This echoes the excuse made by Minister Donohoe who has refused to recover wage subsidy payments that were made to companies that paid dividends to their shareholders while receiving support.
“We all remember how the Minister for Finance retrospectively taxed those receiving the PUP and how the State pursued those taking a holiday during the pandemic.
“Financial support paid to employers and funded by the taxpayer was not made on the basis that it would subsidise the insurance industry and provide it with a windfall.
“Minister Fleming claimed he had no powers to pursue these insurers and recover this money.
“He must explain then why he and the Minister for Finance published insurance legislation in October that could have but failed to address this issue and provide for these powers.
“The Government must now take every action to recover this money which has unfairly been deducted from policyholders.
“Separately, I will be writing to the Central Bank to ask what action they will be taking under its COVID-19 and Business Interruption Insurance Supervisory Framework.”